Dr Peter Bray

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Dr Peter Bray | Principal Investigator, REMADE

Email: p.j.bray@reading.ac.uk | Telephone (Mobile): +44 (0) 7968 536055

Senior Research Fellow, Archaeological Material Science, School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Sciences, University of Reading

Key Skills:

  • Lead scientist microwave plasma – atomic emission spectrometry laboratory (MP-AES), Department of Archaeology, University of Reading
  • New approaches to linking chemical, isotopic and metallographic data for metals with social and conceptual archaeology. Including case studies from the Chalcolithic to late Medieval in Europe and Asia.
  • New methods for identifying and characterising technological and social decisions in scientific data, such as recycling and alloying choices.
  • Innovative teaching and supervision with a commitment to pastoral care. Experience of a range of teaching methods and formats at all university stages.
  • Novel applications of databases as a research tool, developing biography and prosopography of things, and identifying links between crafts.


 My work as a Research Fellow in material science links the chemical analysis of metal objects with human history. My time is split between our new laboratory facilities in Reading and the Department of Science at the British Museum. I am working with colleagues to develop this exciting new collaboration.

Metal has been used to name several of our major archaeological periods, such as the Bronze and Iron Ages. I am using chemistry to research the social role of bronze at those early points, and how it changed and developed through to the Middle Ages, over three thousand years later.

Within the main composition of bronze (tin mixed into copper) there are often other elements present at very low levels. My research focuses on analysing ancient bronze objects to identify those compositions, and then working out what that specific mixture means in terms of the ‘biography’ of the material. Rather than being fixed, the level of chemical ‘impurities’ in the metal (often arsenic, antimony and nickel) can change over the long history of a unit of metal. This happens when bronze from different sources was mixed, or when metal was remelted and recycled.

With colleagues at the British Museum and the University of Reading’s chemical laboratories, we are developing several new projects. Sam Moorhead (BM) and I will look at the chemistry and political messages of late Roman British rebel coinage, to see how their breakaway Empire competed with their rivals. With Ross Thomas (BM), we plan to study Roman figurines that are encrusted with volcanic ash. Our work will confirm whether these were buried in the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79, and explore the history of the metal objects, including their collection by Grand Tourists in the 18th century.

It is a privilege to hold this exciting Fellowship and to develop these new research links. This work is only possible thanks to the support of both the British Museum and University of Reading; and the investment by Reading in new laboratories, particularly a Microwave Plasma – Atomic Emission Spectrometer.

 I have extensive experience of teaching archaeological science, and supervising masters and doctoral research. I welcome enquiries about new student projects or chemical case studies on any archaeological materials.


Sainsbury, V.A., Bray, P.J., Gosden, C., and Pollard, A..M. (2021) Mutable objects, places and chronologies. Antiquity  95: 215-227.

 Bray. P.J. (2020) Modelling Roman concepts of copper-alloy recycling and mutability: the chemical characterisation hypothesis and Roman Britain. In C. Duckworth and A. Wilson (eds.) Recycling and Reuse in the Roman Economy.  Oxford, Oxford Studies on the Roman Economy.

Perucchetti, L., Bray, P.J., Felicetti, A., Sainsbury, V., Howarth, P., Saunders, M.K., Hommel, P., and Pollard, A.M. (2020) Flame-D Database: An integrated system for the study of Archaeometallurgy. Archsaeometry. Online Early View.

Liu, R., Pollard, A.M., Cao, Q., Liu, C., Sainsbury, V., Howarth, P., Bray, P.J., Huan, L., Yao, B., Fu, Y., and Tang, J. (2020) Social hierarchy and the choice of metal recycling at Anyang, the last capital of Bronze Age Shang China. Nature Scientific Reports. 10: 18794

Perucchetti, L., Montero-Ruiz, I., and Bray, P.J. (2020) Mapping archaeometallurgical data of the Iberian Copper Age: Different ways to look at a big picture. Journal of Archaeological Science. 119: 105-165

Hommel, P., Bray, P.J., Khvostikov, V.A., Karandashev, V.K., Yu, Loboda, A., Kolchin, A.S, and Shishlina, NI.  (2020) [In Russian] The analysis and interpretation of the gold, silver and copper alloy artefacts in the Borodino Treasure. In N. Shishlina (ed.) Borodino Treasure of the Heroic Era of the Bronze Age: natural science and historical context, 74-100. Proceedings of the State Historical Museum, Moscow. Moscow

 Bray, P.J. and Gilmour, B. (2020) Analysis of an Early Bronze Age Axe from Little Sark. In B. Cunliffe (ed.) Sark: A Sacred Island?, 333-334. Oxford

 Bray, P.J. (2019) Chemistry and Bronze Age metals in Atlantic Europe: Flows of ideas and material. In B. Cunliffe and J. Koch (eds.) Exploring Celtic Origins, 117-153. Oxford: Oxbow

 Bray, P.J. (2019) Biography, prosopography, and the density of scientific data: Some arguments from the metallurgy of Early Bronze Age Britain and Ireland. In Armada, X.-L., Murillo Barosso, M., and Charlton, M. (eds)   Metals, minds and mobility: Integrating scientific data with archaeological theory. 123-134. Oxford: Oxbow Books

Liu, R., Pollard, A.M., Rawson, J., Tang, X., Bray, P.J., and Zhang, C. (2019) Panlongcheng, Zhengzhou and the movement of metal in Early Bronze Age China. Journal of World Prehistory. 32: 393-428

Radivojević, M, Roberts, B.W., Pernicka, E., Stos-Gale, Z., Martinón-Torres, M., Rehren, T., Bray, P., Brandherm, D., Ling, J., Mei, J-J.,  Vandkilde, H., Kristiansen, K., Shennan, S.J., and Broodbank, C. (2019) The Provenance, Use, and Circulation of Metals in the European Bronze Age: The State of Debate. Journal of Archaeological Research. 27: 131-185

Gibson, C., Bray, P.J., Cleary, K., Fernández-Palacios, F., and Koch, J. (2019) Mapping the flow: introduction to Atlantic Europe and the Metal Ages Project. In D. Brandherm, (ed.) Aspects of the Bronze Age in the Atlantic Archipelago and Beyond, 77-100. Hagen, Westf.: Curach Bhán Publications

Pollard, A.M., Bray, P.J., Cuénod, A., Hommel, P, Hsu, Y-K., Liu, R., Perucchetti, L., Pouncett, J., and Saunders, M. (2018) Beyond Provenance: New Approaches to Interpreting the Chemistry of Archaeological Copper Alloys. Studies in Archaeological Science. Leuven: Leuven University Press

Pollard, A.M., Bray, P.J., Hommel, P., Hsu, Y.-K., Liu, R. and Rawson, J. (2017). [In Chinese] Applying the Oxford System to further understand Bronzes in China. Kaogu 1: 95-106

Pollard, A.M., Bray, P.J., Hommel, P., Hsu, Y.-K., Liu, R. and Rawson, J. (2017). Bronze Age metal circulation in China. Antiquity 91: 674-687.

Zhangsun, Y. Z., Liu, R. L., Jin, Z. Y., Pollard, A. M., Lu, X., Bray, P. J., Fan, A. C., and Huang, F. (2017) Lead Isotope Analyses Revealed the Key Role of Chang’an in the Mirror Production and Distribution Network During the Han Dynasty. Archaeometry 59: 685-713

 Bray, P.J. (2016) The Saltonstall Early Bronze Age Axe, Prehistoric Yorkshire, 53: 99-103

Bray, P.J. (2016) Metal, metalwork and specialisation: The chemical composition of British Bronze Age swords in context. In Koch, J.T and Cunliffe, B.W. (eds.) Celtic from the West 3 : Atlantic Europe in the Metal Ages : questions of shared language. Oxford: Oxbow Books

Hsu, Y-K., Bray, P.J., Hommel, P., Pollard, A.M. and Rawson, J. (2016). Tracing the flows of copper and copper alloys in the Early Iron Age societies of the eastern Eurasian steppe. Antiquity 90: 357-375.

 Bray, P.J. (2015) The role and use of daggers in British Early Bronze Age society: Insights from their chemical composition. In J. Hunter and A. Woodward (eds.) Ritual in Early Bronze Age Grave Groups. Oxford: Oxbow Books

 Bray, P.J.,  Cuénod, A., Gosden, C., Hommel, P., Liu, R., Perucchetti, L. and Pollard, A.M. (2015). Form and flow: The ‘karmic cycle’ of copper. Journal of Archaeological Science 56: 202-209.

Cuénod, A., Bray, P.J. and Pollard, A.M. (2015). The ‘tin problem’ in the Near East – further insights from a study of chemical datasets on copper alloys from Iran and Mesopotamia. Iran, 53: 29-48.

Liu, R., Bray, P.J. and Pollard, A.M. (2015). Chemical analysis of ancient Chinese Bronzes: past, present and future. Archaeological Research in Asia 3: 1–8

Perucchetti, L., Bray, P., Dolfini, A. and Pollard, A.M. (2015). Physical barriers, cultural connections: prehistoric metallurgy in the Alpine region. European Journal of Archaeology 18: 599–632.

Pollard, A.M. and Bray, P.J. (2015) Chemical and isotopic methodologies. In C. Thornton and B. Roberts (ed.) A Global perspective in Early Metallurgy: Methods and Synthesis: 217-238 New York: Springer Publications

Pollard, A.M. and Bray, P.J. (2015) The Archaeological Bazaar: Scientific methods for sale? Or: ‘Putting the ‘Arch-’ back into Archaeometry’ In A. Wylie and B. Chapman (Eds.) Material Culture as Evidence. London: Routledge

Pollard, A.M., Bray, P.J, Gosden, C., Wilson, A. and Hamerow, H. (2015). Characterising copper-based metals in Britain in the First Millennium AD: A preliminary quantification of metal flow and recycling. Antiquity 89: 697–713.

Pollard, A.M. and Bray, P.J. (2015). A new method for combining lead isotope and lead abundance data to characterise archaeological copper alloys. Archaeometry 57: 996–1008.

Pollard, A.M., Bray, P.J. and Gosden, C. (2014). Is there something missing in scientific provenance studies of prehistoric artefacts? Antiquity 88: 625-631.

Bray, P.J. (2012) Before 29Cu became copper: tracing the recognition and invention of metalleity in Britain and Ireland during the third millennium B.C. In M. Allen, J. Gardiner and A. Sheridan (eds.) Is there a British Chalcolithic: people, place and polity in the later 3rd millennium. The Prehistoric Society Research Paper 4: 56-70

 Bray, P.J. and Pollard, A.M. (2012). A new interpretative approach to the chemistry of copper-alloy objects: source, recycling and technology. Antiquity 86: 853-867.

Bray, P.J. and Frieman, C. (2008) Archaeological Techniques. In R. Adkins, L. Adkins and V. Leitch (eds.) Handbook of British Archaeology (2nd Edition): 356-404. London: Constable and Robinson

Bray, P.J. and Frieman, C. (2008) Archaeological Specialisms, Organisations and Legal Factors. In R. Adkins, L. Adkins and V. Leitch (eds.) Handbook of British Archaeology (2nd Edition): 454-464. London: Constable and Robinson

Pollard, A.M and Bray, P.J. (2007) A Bicycle Made for Two? The Integration of Scientific Techniques into Archaeological Interpretation. Annual Review of Anthropology. 36: 245-259

Schroeder, H. and Bray, P. (2007) The opportunities and challenges of crossing disciplinary frontiers in archaeological research. In H. Schroeder, P. Bray, P. Gardner, V. Jefferson and E. Macauley-Lewis, (Eds.) Crossing Frontiers:. Oxford: Oxford University School of Archaeology Monograph 63

Bray, P.J., Blockley, SPE., Coope, GR., Dadswell, LF.,  Elias, SA., Lowe, JJ. and Pollard, AM. (2006) Refining mutual climatic range (MCR) quantitative estimates of palaeotemperature using ubiquity analysis. Quaternary Science Reviews. 25: 1865–1876

Bray, P.J. and Pollard, AM (2005) Comments II: The underpinnings and consequences of the materiality approach. Archaeometry 47: 179-182